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Flying kimonos, flying beds - story threads

A fellow writer asked me recently whether I'd lived in Japan. The short answer is "no." The longer is more complicated. I was lucky enough to work there, with colleagues I respected and admired, and who more or less "adopted" me - arranging a tea ceremony, giving me a wonderful photo of a camellia in a vase (after measuring my suitcase to see if it would fit), regaling me with stories of how their wives handled the family pocket money, and many other tales. Visiting Tokyo, I always managed to find time to explore on my own, wandering the small alleys, pondering the shrines with red-scarved foxes, eating in tiny restaurants. We participated in the late-night conference calls and I stumbled back to my hotel while my colleagues took the hour-long train ride home. Somewhere in there, Japan lodged itself in my heart. And then...Kyoto. A month, two months...and back again. An elegant man crossed the street, his kimono fluttering in the breeze. Although it's relatively common to see a woman in kimono, it's rare for a man, except at a shrine or temple. Who was he? What prompted him to choose that garb? Almost before I knew it, he stood before me: Yoshi, protagonist of The Thirteen Hour Man. So...no, I never lived in Japan - but he does.

 

Kimonos aren't the only things that fly. Beds do, too. At least if you're in Palermo. A scorching hot day, a horse neighing from a stall in a courtyard, a hose connected to the water main running up to a balcony, and another mystery to be solved: who launched that mattress from the third floor? and why? Put it down to a Midsummer fantasy. Roberto knows all about those. So does Giovanna. 

 

On such thin threads are stories woven.

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The power of a writing group

I'm not a joiner. At least it's not what I usually do. But about 3 or 4 years ago, I turned up at a writers group meeting. Since then, it's been quite a ride. The group members have changed, we've gotten more organized, and we seem to have done something which got a lot of us moving.

What we writers often need is a kick-start. Or maybe just a kick, to get started.

Formed "way back" in  1992 or so, the Writers Club of Crossroads in Fontainebleau, the local Anglophone organization, attracted a small group of writers. (I only know that because one of the members is still an active participant.) For years, a changing membership met to do group exercises and discuss each other's stories. Publication was an elusive goal for most. Many of the group even questioned its value.  

Last year that changed with the publication of the anthology, Blue Fountain. It's been an interesting ride since then. Suddenly, even those who questioned the value of publishing were adamant - we have to do another anthology, they announced. New writers joined - and they, too, caught the bug. Now there's a second anthology in the offing, and three members are publishing their works independently, with a fourth in the queue - everybody wants to play. 

Is the second anthology going to be great art? probably not. Neither was the first. But the stories are pretty good and some of them are better than good. The effort itself brought the group together in a new way. The weeks and months ahead are going to be difficult and tiring, but also liberating and exhilirating. 

One of our sister groups got inspired, too..they're publishing in June. We'll publish either then or a little bit earlier. Crossing my fingers for everyone's success and hoping that all the good writers out there will take a deep breath and plunge in. 

I'm still not a joiner. But now I've seen - and experienced - the value of being part of a community of writers. For that, I'm grateful. 

 

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